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Gentlemen of the Illinois State Bar Association:
When your committee extended the kind invitation to me to address you on this occasion, I asked them to assign me a subject, which they declined to do, assuming that I knew best what I would like to talk about.
I am not sure that they decided rightly. A busy lawyer is so often compelled to speak on questions which are not of his own choosing, that, through force of habit, it becomes hard to select a topic of his own. In his professional life, he deals with concrete, not abstract, questions. He spends his time in advising his clients, and in enforcing or defending their rights. The law, as practically administered, runs along broken contracts and violated laws. To the lawyers the people come, some to seek justice, some to evade it, some to inflict the opposite, some to invoke the strong arms of the governments in their behalf, some to defend themselves against wrongful governmental charges, and others, an unwilling group, to expiate offenses.
In casting around for a subject, I could not be unmindful of the body I was to address. Within the last thirty years, there has come into our American life an array of associations, composed of lawyers, jurists and law teachers, unique in the previous history of the world, built along the line of our governments, local, state and national, and known as bar
associations. They have already reached the eminence of a system which is destined to a greater growth in the future, and which, I trust, will endure so long as our free institutions last.
Of this system, our American Bar Association is the central sun and the various state bar associations fixed planets of varying magnitudes, of which the Illinois State Bar Association is one of the largest.
So successful have been our bar associations, such great interest have they aroused, that I am glad to note that a movement is now on foot and well under way to establish an International Bar Association, which will embrace the lawyers of the civilized world, bringing them all in touch with each other, and built upon the plan, with respect to the nations of the earth, that the American Bar Association sustains to the bar associations of our various American States.
Gentlemen, speaking, therefore, as I am, to one of the greatest of the American State bar associations, standing in this presence where, during the thirty years' life of your association, have stood Anthony Thornton, O. H. Browning, John A. McClernand, David McCulloch, E. B. Sherman, C. C. Bonney, W. L. Gross, David Davis, B. S. Edwards, M. W. Fuller, E. B. Green, Thomas Dent, E, Callahan, James B. Bradwell, James M. Riggs, Lyman Trumbull, Samuel P. Wheeler, Elliott Anthony, John H. Hamline, Alfred Orendorff, Benson Wood, Jesse Holdom, John S. Stevens, Murray F. Tuley, Charles L. Capen, and Alton B. Parker, and performing the same duty that they each in their respective years performed,—it has occurred to me that I could spend my brief time perhaps profitably in touching upon the momentous question which confronts the American people to-day, What is to Become of Our American States?
It is a question which has been and is uppermost in my mind, especially since, in recent years, the lurid lights of the
federal power have been ablaze along the horizon of our Republic in such a spectacular way, obscuring, if not obliterating, the powers and rights of the States. It is a question concerning which many serious minded people are deeply anxious; many think the fate of our American States is trembling in the balance. Like others, I am solicitous, though not without hope that the American States will be preserved in their ancient vigor.
There never has been a time in the history of our country, however, when it was more important than now that our lawyers, jurists, judges, and law teachers should well consider and reconsider the fields of federal and state jurisdiction in the exercise of governmental powers.
It seems strange that anyone should want to see our dual system of government, national and state, destroyed. Yet it is surprising to learn of the number who assume to believe that the States have outgrown their usefulness and are of minor consideration. It took many years, after the American Revolution, to firmly establish the National government. The Articles of Confederation proved unstable and insufficient, and only after the labors and trials of our forefathers had planted the federal Union upon the firm basis of the federal Constitution, did it assume strength; and afterwards, for a long time, was threatened with dissolution, until its permanency was finally determined by the Civil War.
Do not misunderstand me. I would be the last to deny to the federal government any of the powers, express or implied, granted by the Constitution or its Amendments; though I may not believe all are required to be put in motion, for too much government may lead to bad government. In practice, the growth of the federal power, since the adoption of the Constitution, has been marvelous, and in later days has gone forward, and is now going forward, with tremendous strides.
After the discovery of America and the settlement of the European colonists upon her soil, the greatest event in the history of our country was the result of the French-English war upon the plains of Quebec, which determined that our laws and civilization should be those of the Anglo-Saxon race; the basic principle of which was local self-government, guarded by a proper central authority.
The next controlling event in our history was the union of the American colonies in the Continental Congress, to defend their right of self-government and to resist the aggressions of Great Britain.
Then quickly followed the Declaration of Independence, whereby it was solemnly published and declared, "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."
In 1777, the year following the Declaration of Independence, while the War of the Revolution was being waged, these thirteen states, which had declared their independence, striving for a perpetual union, adopted the Articles of Confederation, in which they declared that the style of the Confederacy should be, “The United States of America,” and that each state should retain its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
By these Articles, the States severally entered into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties and their mutual and